HARARE -Â “As you can see, no-one is planting here. There is virtually no farming taking place,” said Simba Chinyamakobvu. The air was thick with the promise of rain and frangipani blossom, but the conversation was as depressing as the deserted farmyards.
“We have no seed, no fertiliser, nothing. Government has promised to give us these items. But so far we haven’t received anything,” said a new farmer from another former commercial farm in the area.
In the most fertile cropping province, Mashonaland West, fields are bare and weeds the only greenery. Hundreds of hectares of young coffee is abandoned at a farm grabbed from a white farmer last month in renewed farm seizures. Citrus orchards were burned in September and the blaze melted the drip irrigation pipes which watered the trees.
Footage shot from a light aircraft over the rest of the central provinces in the past three weeks paints a bleak picture of the results of nearly seven years of so-called land reform. In place of mechanical maize planters which put down 20ha of seed a day, thin old women bent double are planting pip by pip, about half a hectare in the same time.
Many of Mugabe’s storm troopers have neither seed nor fertiliser. They are hanging about scratching at the soil here and there, and waiting.
At Lions Den, about 150km north west of Harare, there is an exception to the desolation. 50ha of young maize, at present overcome with weeds, has been planted by former Higher Education minister and ex-president of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, Swithun Mombeshora.
Mombeshora, assisted by police from the provincial capital, Chinhoyi, allegedly chucked the owners off this farm. He had an easy start after that, free land, free irrigation equipment, plentiful seed and fertiliser. Ormeston, the farm he took, has for decades reaped 750ha of maize and soya beans, 80ha of tobacco, and 15ha of export flowers, and 600ha of winter wheat.
But what of the doughty, overcrowded communal farmers who are capable of producing 800,000 tons of maize in a year? The communal farmers are weakened by inflation, which is nearly 8,000 percent, and by shortages of inputs.
They are also hungry, and their families are diminished by HIV/AIDS. They have no access to dams or irrigation, and despite prospects for decent rain this season, chances of a good crop are dim. – Chief reporter
Scratching the soil, waiting for inputsÂ